By Shamindra Ferdinando
Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris has alleged that two new laws that dealt with terrorism and corruption were meant to consolidate the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa regime.
The former External Affairs Minister discussed the government’s agenda pertaining to the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill and Anti-Corruption Bill. He said the Anti-Corruption Bill was actually meant to protect those who had robbed the country, and thereby create a safer environment for them. On the other hand, the new law discouraged whistle blowers by warning of punitive action in case information provided by them didn’t yield expected results, the National List MP said. Those who risked their lives to expose corruption faced a 10-year prison term or Rs 1 mn penalty, the ex-minister said. How that could be acceptable, the Prof. asked.
Referring to the recent heavy deployment of the military, targeting the University of Colombo, Prof. Peiris, a former Vice Chancellor of the same university, said the government’s response to unverified possible threats indicated the developing situation and what could happen in case the government succeeded in enacting a new anti-terrorism law.
Prof. Peiris declared that the government was compelled to put off the vote on the Anti-Terrorism Bill due to growing protests, both in and outside Parliament. “Having perused the so-called anti-corruption bill, I could say it was a farce,” Prof. Peiris said, alleging the government quite conveniently had forgotten to deal with stolen money.
A group of 13 MPs including Prof. Peiris broke ranks with the ruling party over its decision to vote for UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at the vote to elect a President, from among the MPs, to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term.
Prof. Peiris dismissed as ridiculous the government’s much-touted slogan ‘developed country by 2048’. “We have to overcome the current political-economic-social crisis. It would be impractical to make plans for 2048 when we are not sure whether the country can surmount still developing country,” Prof. Peiris said.
Prof. Peiris said that the government agenda was clear. While promising a new anti-corruption law, the government, for all intents and purposes, had crippled the Committee on Public Finance (CoPF). Contrary to Standing Orders, the government continued to deprive the Opposition of the chairmanship of the watchdog committee, Prof. Peiris said, drawing the attention of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to what he called actions contrary to the assurances given to them.
He, however, expressed confidence that the IMF delegation currently here, would look into all aspects as it was their responsibility, too, to ensure Sri Lanka subject itself to course correction.
During the course of the briefing, Prof. Peiris also pointed out how irresponsible the government had been, pertaining to a Bill, titled ‘Central Bank of Sri Lanka,’ and misinterpretation of the Supreme Court ruling. What could you expect when the SC found one-third of the Bill unconstitutional and the Attorney General was compelled to propose several dozens of amendments to make the Bill compatible with the Constitution, Prof. Peiris said, adding that due to Opposition protests the government put off the vote on that particular Bill. It was originally to be debated and vote on last week.
Declaring that a new wave of public protests was in the offing, Prof. Peiris said that that would be the result of economic difficulties caused by ill-fated and reckless decisions. Domestic debt restructuring would make matters worse, Prof. Peiris said, adding that during a recent meeting trade union representatives had with the visiting IMF delegation, they were told in no uncertain terms that it was a must. They were told that there wouldn’t be restructuring of external debt unless Sri Lanka undertook a local process, the former minister said.
GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (02) said that the government should take full responsibility for the suspension of USD 2.9 bn IMF bailout over Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the anticipated revenue mobilisation.
The former External Affairs Minister found fault with the government for tax concessions granted to investors and the failure on its part to collect taxes, in spite of reaching an agreement with the IMF in that regard.
Referring to the declaration made by IMF delegation head Peter Breuer that the second tranche of about $330m would be delayed pending Staff-Level Agreement, Prof. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka and the lending agency had reached a staff-level agreement in early September last year.
Sri Lanka received the first tranche of USD 330 mn in the third week of March this year in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), spread over a period of four years.
While pointing out that revenue mobilisation had improved, the IMF said revenue was expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by the end of this year.
Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris said that though the government tried to put on a brave face, the consequences of the indefinite delay could be quite catastrophic. He said the suspension of the programme could undermine debt restructuring talks with external creditors, governments, lending agencies and the commercial market.
Prof. Peiris said that the suspension of the programme, just after the release of the first tranche, was a matter for serious concern as the unexpected development could cause further erosion of investors’ confidence in the Sri Lankan economy.
Sri Lanka has obtained IMF assistance on 16 occasions.
Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Sunday told The Island the country was paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Department to collect the due taxes. Alleging that unpaid income taxes alone, over the past 15 years, amounted to a staggering Rs 904 bn, whereas revenue collecting authorities so far managed to collect Rs 1,643 bn though they were given a target of Rs. 3,101 bn for this year.
Prof. Peiris said that corruption in the public sector procurement process undermined the economic recovery process. The government defeated the Opposition moved no-confidence motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over corruption in the public health sector, Prof. Peiris said, asserting that the IMF must be aware of how the government encouraged waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.
Prof. Peiris urged the government to take tangible measures to address the concerns of the IMF. Unfortunately, the government sought to deceive the public by claiming that the process was on track and would proceed following staff-level agreement, he said. He asked whether the government wanted the people to believe there would be staff-level agreements before the release of each tranche.
Prof. Peiris said that the government should correctly identify the warning issued by the IMF. It would be the responsibility of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to take remedial measures without further delay.
LPBOA demands bus fare hike
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) head, Gemunu Wijeratna on Monday (02) said they needed a five percent increase in bus fares following Sunday’s diesel price hike.
On Sunday, CPC, LIOC and Sinopec increased diesel prices by 10 rupees per litre.
Wijeratna said that the private bus owners had not increased bus fares when diesel prices were increased by 35 rupees per litre recently.
“With the latest price increase, short distance buses will lose Rs 1,000 a day. Long distance buses will lose Rs 2,500 a day. We can’t lose money like this. We want at least a five percent bus fare hike,” he said.
School transport providers have decided not to increase their charges.
Discourse on crisis in Lankan health sector at CSR
A discourse on the crisis in Sri Lankan health sector, under the theme ‘What ails the health sector? What solutions?’ is scheduled to be held at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, 05 October 2023, at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR) Auditorium, 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, under the auspices of the Socialist Study Circle. The speakers will be Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Consultant Community Physician, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician, National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Ravi Kumudesh President, Academy of Health Professionals. The discourse is open to the public.
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